Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guest Post: Is the phone book obsolete?

Just the other day I was thinking about how long it has been since I have used my phone book. The I saw this article at posted by is a website where you can get paid for recycling your used printer cartridges, cell phones, and M3P players.

When you want to find the phone number of a local residence, where do you look for the information? Do you haul out the white pages to “let your fingers do the walking” through the entries, or do you search online using one of the internet’s free directory services?

According to, as many as 5 million trees are cut down to create the white pages phone books that are dropped on our doorsteps each year. Additionally, taxpayers spend $17 million per annum to have these books recycled.

In rebuttal, a detailed Yellow Pages’ blog demonstrates the process of making paper for the Yellow Pages industry uses mainly woodchips and saw mill byproducts as well as recycled newspaper and directories.

Regardless of which data is more accurate, when you consider that today’s consumers most likely use online directories, social networks, and mobile phone applications to find the contact information they need, some feel it simply does not make sense to have the white pages phone books automatically delivered to us every year.

According to a recent survey, over 80% of consumers would support an ‘opt-in’ program (only receive a white pages phone book upon request) if they knew it would have a positive impact on the environment and save taxpayers money. has gathered more than 20,000 signatures for its “Ban the Phone Book” campaign, which seeks the creation of “opt-in” programs for white pages phone books so they are delivered only to people who request them. The idea is so popular that its fanpage has already garnered nearly 6500 fans on Facebook.

According to an article at the New York Times, “Legislation aimed at limiting the distribution of white pages directories only to people who request them — or at least providing customers with a way to opt-out — has already been introduced in several states, including Alaska and New York.”

According to the article, state laws require telephone companies to print and distribute free phonebooks to their landline customers. Free deliveries began in California and many other states more than a dozen years ago as a way to minimize calls to directory assistance and promote yellow-page advertising programs. However, in this digital age, many feel the books are simply a waste of paper. Some of the telephone companies agree and are testing their own white pages opt-in programs.

“It’s all about choice,” said Fletcher Cook, a spokesman at AT&T, in an interview with the New York Times. “We want to act with an environmental conscience but also respect our customers’ preferences.”

To assist consumers with this choice, the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group representing most phone book publishers in the United States, has created a “Yellow Pages Opt Out” site that allows users to type in their ZIP code to obtain a list of local publishers; it is then up to the consumer to notify them directly if they want delivery stopped.

If you want to join the white pages opt-in movement, add your name to the petition at More than 16,000 people already have signed the petition.

Meanwhile, don’t just toss your outdated phone books into the trash! I keep a copy in my car to help when I’m trying to locate a business while out and about. Or, contact your local Yellow Pages publisher for phone book recycling drop-off locations.

Creative Commons photo credits:
Wet phone book by / CC BY 2.0
Trashbin of phone books by: / CC BY 2.0
Phone book recycling by:

1 comment:

  1. I got one the other day! I am just going to have to recycle it. The car idea is good but I can use my phone to look up numbers (I have internet).


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